Stained-glass artist Richard Paton has worked for celebrity clients including artist Damien Hirst and singer Shakin’ Stevens and is one of Stokey's hidden gems.
Based out of a studio on Stoke Newington Church St, Rainbow Glass is as likely to complete work for a London home-owner as a historic cathedral. Richard has been in the industry for more than 35 years and many of the newer stained-glass specialists were trained by him.
He studied fine art in Liverpool and, after a spell painting, saw a job in stained-glass advertised in Yorkshire, decided to teach himself and apply. He got the job and spent the next few years honing his skills.
He later moved to London, determined to become a secondary school teacher. But, with rents unaffordable, he wound-up squatting in a building on Clissold Crescent. A combination of squatters’ party life being not conducive to studying and frustration with the government’s approach to teachers, led to a change of heart - Richard quit teaching and returned to stained-glass.
In 2001 he came across the courtyard on Church St and rented a studio - he moved to a bigger unit six years later.
He said: “It took a few years to get established but having a website made the world of difference to my business; overnight we went from getting mainly local bookings to clients contacting us from all over the UK. I started offering evening and weekend classes and things took off.
“I’ve had such a variety of commissions; a synagogue, mosque, church and cathedral, I worked for the artist Craig Atkinson and completed around 500 butterfly windows for Damien Hirst – to compliment his gravestone-paved floor! I made a 3D model of a church from glass for the artist Matt Collishaw and have completed work for Mark Getty.
“I love this career – I’ve met such fascinating people and it’s wonderful to be putting my art to good use. Among those to take our courses are a former Chair of RIBA, doctors, dentists, therapists and more. We’ve taught thousands of people over the years. Everyone goes away with something very special to hang in their window.”
One of those to attend his class in those early days was ballerina Eleanor Watson – she fell in love with glass-working and she and Richard fell in love with each other. They married and now she’s a glass artist in her own right, running many of their courses and creating bespoke glass jewellery.
Rainbow Glass’s most notable projects have included a stained-glass conservatory for one private client; circa 400 panes of glass, each depicting a real butterfly species. He’s also completed new glass works for Corpus Christi Church in Oxford and for St Martins in the Bullring in Birmingham.
The studio space in Guttridge Yard is a feast for the eyes – dotted with brightly coloured glasswork – there are six kilns and a sandblaster and spaces for Richard and Eleanor to run their courses.
Participants of the Saturday stained-glass course learn all the skills it takes to make an A4 or A3 sized panel to hang in the window – they can design their own creation or use someone else’s for inspiration.
Among the skills Richard and Eleanor teach are glass painting, stained-glass, fusing glass for jewellery or homeware, and making enamel.
Richard is a member of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, he is also a practising sculptor and a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors.
In his spare time, he loves travelling and climbing – he’s a regular at the Castle Climbing Centre.